DETROIT – Senior Sara Zawacki (Dearborn, Mich./Marian) of the Titan women's soccer team was named Valedictorian for the Class of 2016 at the University of Detroit Mercy Honors Convocation on Sunday, March 20.
"Being named Valedictorian means a lot to me because UDM provided me with new opportunities to get involved beyond the classroom and the field," said Zawacki. "I've been able to learn so much from the Detroit community as a nursing student, a student-athlete, and a student leader for Rx for Reading Detroit. It's been an honor to wear Detroit on my jersey for the past few years and it will be an even greater honor to represent the Class of 2016 at commencements."
To be named Valedictorian, a student must demonstrate academic excellence by achieving a 3.7 or higher GPA, University involvement, service and leadership. The awardee has the honor of delivering the valedictory address at the McNichols Campus commencement ceremony on May 14, 2016.
The Dearborn, Mich.-native boasts a cumulative GPA of 3.98 in UDM's demanding nursing program and has been a vibrant piece of the Detroit community. In 2015, she was named the recipient of the Ford Community Corps Partnership Grant for her role with Rx for Reading Detroit, a non-profit literacy initiative that works to expand access to high-quality children's books and support families in reading with their children.
"I am extremely excited for Sara; it is a well-deserved honor and an extremely significant achievement," said Director of Athletics Robert C. Vowels, Jr. "As a former student-athlete myself, I know how demanding it is for student-athletes to balance education and athletics. To excel at the level Sara has – on the soccer field, in the community and especially in the classroom – is truly a testament to her character. She represents the very best in collegiate athletics and on behalf of the UDM Athletics Department, we couldn't be more proud of her accomplishments."
Zawacki becomes the fifth student-athlete since 1981 to earn the Valedictorian honor. The last to be recognized was Susan Kalkstein from track and field in 2012. Before Zawacki and Kalkstein, Katelyn McCutcheon from softball received the award in 2010, while Mead Goedert from track and field was named Valedictorian in 2006 and Todd Otten, also from track and field, earned the distinction in 1998.
"I'm very proud of what Sara has been able to accomplish," added women's soccer head coach Mike Lupenec. "Her impact on this program, both on and off the field, is truly exceptional. She has embodied everything that a student-athlete is supposed to be and her mark on this program will be around for a long time."
Zawacki, and the women's soccer program, is no stranger to academic success. The team has been recognized by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for excellence in the classroom with Team Academic Awards in three of the last five years. Out of 859 total teams to receive the award in 2015, the Titans' posted the fourth-best GPA in the nation, for both men's and women's teams across all NCAA divisions.
Individually, Zawacki has been a staple of the Horizon League's Academic Honor Roll and the UDM Athletic Director's Honor Roll, earning the accolades in every semester she has been eligible.
On the field, Zawacki has been an integral part of the Detroit women's soccer program that has amassed 27 wins during her UDM career. The Titans advanced to the Horizon League semifinals twice and reached the HL Championship in 2014 with Zawacki on the pitch.
She finishes her playing career with six goals and four assists for 16 points in 53 games played. One of Zawacki's best games came against Metro Series rival Oakland in 2014, when she scored twice – including the golden goal – in a 2-1 double-overtime win over the Golden Grizzlies.
Zawacki will graduate this spring and will deliver the valedictory address at the McNichols Campus commencement ceremony on May 14, 2016.
(Release courtesy of Detroit athletics media relations)